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'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' by Ambrose Bierce

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Introduction

'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' by Ambrose Bierce 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' by Ambrose Bierce is a 19th Century mystery story that is set at the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865) when the Slave owning Confederate States in the South engaged in conflict with the Federal Government of the USA. The story focuses on a character called Peyton Farquhar, whom is about to be summarily hung for trespassing on the Owl Creek Bridge; his fate is to be hung from that same bridge. The story ends with a curious twist in the plot. The main part of the story is set in Farquhar's mind, though whilst reading the reader is unsure (despite careful, hidden hints placed by Bierce) of this fact. Only at the end when it is clearly stated that Farquhar is hanging lifelessly with a broken neck from the bridge that the reader will become conclusively aware of this. It is divided into three parts, which I will analyse, in detail, separately. Part I 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' 'begins powerfully by introducing a man, whom is not named until later on in the tale. This obviously adds to the mystery. It describes with detail of him in somewhat a predicament ~ " hands behind his back", " wrists bounds with a cord", "rope closely encircled his neck". Words of such like are of a lexical set of entrapment and give the impression that the man in question is in danger and is unable to break free. ...read more.

Middle

This is the last action presented in sequence; we now retreat into the man's past. Part II Bierce finally reveals the identity of the condemned man in part II. He is Peyton Farquhar, "a well to do planter" from a "highly respectable family". By these descriptions, Bierce is gaining his readers trust of Farquhar, portraying him as a respectable civilian with his heart devoted to the cause of the South. Bierce forces the reader to feel that Farquhar is an innocent man being hung. Part II is a side story that reveals his part and purpose for being hung, making his character seem more realistic and allowing the reader to develop sincere feelings for him. The interlude at Farquhar's estate is both poignant and ironic. Farquhar imagines himself to be a soldier~ "was at heart a soldier" but describes himself to be "...humble (for him) to perform in the aid of the South" and "no adventure was too perilous (for him)". The reader will begin to associate these descriptions with the events in Part I. He accepts the brutal and lawless outlook of war~ "assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war", even as a Confederate soldier receives a drink from the "white hands" of his wife. It never occurs to him that others devoted to victory might actually deceive him. The solider tells Farquhar "any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, bridges (Owl Creek), tunnels or trains will be summarily hanged". ...read more.

Conclusion

alone. The heavens are unfamiliar to him; their secret is indeed malign. Bierce's description of Farquhar's extreme agonies " his neck was in pain", "his tongue was swollen" indicates to the reader that he is clearly dying, his tongue thrusting out from between his teeth as he is strangulated. From all of the above that I have discussed, Bierce give careful, hidden hints that the illusion that he writes is actually false. He purposely confuses his audience. The detailed description of how Farquhar broke free from being hung give the fleeting thought that he did not die. The ending of the story is the greatest example of an illusion that dramatically enhances the story~ " Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms". Bierce lures the reader into thoughts of joy by remarking how beautiful the wife is. Suddenly, Bierce stops his complex illusions and proves that proves the prior Part III was not reality, set in the min of Farquhar~ "his body swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge. Conclusion Bierce has a unique style to pull the reader into the story. To name a few techniques, his complex illusions keep the audience in suspense, his detailed descriptions allow the reader to picture all aspects of the story and the dividing of the story into three separate parts help them to stay focused. These all work together to provide a compelling, inspiring and powerful story. 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' is a great example how the mind can be deceptive. 1 ...read more.

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